For many, the term “Michelin star” evokes Italian or French culinary celebrity chefs whipping up elaborate molecular gastronomic masterpieces that seem to requite as much scientific skill as kitchen prowess.
However, a Tokyo proprietor is defying that convention by serving the famous everyman’s noodle of high enough quality to be bestowed with that utmost Michelin gourmet designation, a first for the annual elite culinary guide that was published this past Tuesday.
Tsuta, the restaurant in question, was awarded one Michelin star, and is but one of the 217 Tokyo venues featured in the cuisine guide, more than any other city in the world. However, Tsuta stands out amongst those other Tokyo establishments more than the other newcomers. That’s because its simple but delectable soup noodles are far more straightforward than the fare found at other restaurants that made the cut. Those more elaborate Tokyo finalists include one chef who readies blowfish that must be readied with exact precision in order to render its poisonous qualities null, and a sushi eatery steeped in tradition thanks to its octogenarian master chef.
Tsuta, meanwhile, satisfies patrons without such flashy flourishes. Its hearty bowlfuls of wholesome soup noodles range in price from ¥830 to ¥1,200 ($6.75 to $9). Takatoshi Itami, a cook at the Sugamo district restaurant, told reporters, “The most important thing is that customers like our ramen. We have good reviews thanks to them – getting a star was not our priority.”
However, that Michelin star is sure to bring many more curious patrons to the nondescript restaurant – don’t expect a short wait to get in any time soon. Here’s hoping that newfound fame will not lead Tsuta’s owners to stretch the menu prices in the same way that its chefs pull those delicious noodles into their straightforward, simple, and beloved stringy shape.